UCL News


Letter: Simpler spelling for all English speakers

31 March 2006

Sir: Nicholas Groves (letter, 29 March) is partly right: the fact that we don't all pronounce English in the same way does mean that in an ideal spelling system we shall all have to make compromises.

But it doesn't mean that we have to abandon all ideas of improving our spelling system.

Everybody, no matter what their social or geographical background may be, pronounces 'friend' to rhyme with 'bend'. We ought to spell it 'frend'. Everyone uses a short vowel in 'river' but a long one in 'diver', So we ought to spell it 'rivver'. No one pronounces a vowel at the end of 'twelve': the final letter does not indicate anything at all. So we ought to spell it 'twelv'. That is as true in Chicago and Adelaide as it is in London, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Professor John Wells (UCL Phonetics & Linguistics), 'The Independent'